By @SimonCocking

Europe’s biggest festival focusing on startup jobs, music, talent and workshops based in Amsterdam. Sept 25 & 26 2015 @festivaluprise. Interview with Uprise festival director Paul O’Connell, from Limerick, Ireland. 

Paul O’Connell, the rugby legend?

Not yet, but the year isn’t finished just yet!

Why in Holland, why did you move there

Originally I came to Amsterdam 6 years ago to experience and indulge in the distinct design culture and public awareness of design that exists here.  I got involved in the Startup ecosystem and have never looked back since.

Biggest wins this year / last year?

Our prototype startup festival in March was a massive win for the team and I. The unbridled enthusiasm and good will that we received from Startups and the Public was unexpected and has powered our second European edition attitude. Getting Startups to be our biggest sponsor since they pay for stands at UPRISE.

My site Dutch Startup Jobs turned two this year and it is going from strength to strength with strong support from the ecosystem.

Anything you would do differently?

Yes lots of things but that’s why we are doing our second expanded edition in September. Learn from what worked and didn’t work in the first edition through qualitative and quantitative feedback sessions with attendees and startups. I’ve had plenty of startups so I know how to build iterative product and this is very much part of the festival core principles.

How does you find living there, pros and cons with Ireland in general, and also in relation to developing startups?

The Dutch are more individualistic in approach to most things if you compare them to the Irish. The Irish are at heart a community focused people. This makes creating connective communities harder for the Dutch. But the Dutch are great at recognizing value and placing a relative cost to it. This really helps in creating value for a festival focused on Startups. The work/life balance makes the Netherlands a great place to live but it also slows down how fast business moves here. But it all works out in the end. The Dutch have a sense of entitlement that creates a drive and makes them a shrewd group of people to deal with since they believe they deserve the win.

What led you to being involved in the festival?

UPRISE started as a way for university students to find a single entry point into startups in the Netherlands and Startups to get a single entry point into university talent. It eventually snowballed into the festival it is now. Startup Conferences always felt like a weird construction for me since Startup is more about getting shit down in a practical way while maintaining an awe inspiring vision for the future. I envisioned UPRISE as a lens for startups showing the European Public what they could do while allowing faster growth all in a festival wrapper.

What is UPRISE hoping to achieve, for festival, and moving forwards

We want to enable startups to grow faster through connecting to new talent and to talk directly to the public who could potentially become new customers/users. Joining workshops for upgrading team skills and introduce the public to the raw potential of startups in Europe. Everyone brings something to the festival and takes something away. There are no speakers and no egos only active participants learning from each other. Europe is a fragmented market but like the Netherlands, if you provide the right format and value everyone will see the benefit in coming together under a shared vision. I think Startups and talent are key in making this happen.

What can we look forward to from UPRISE?

We are bringing 200 startups from around Europe to a massive factory NDSM in Amsterdam for 2 days of demos, workshops, foodcourts, craft beer, parties and general mayhem.

We estimate an audience of 10,000 people over 2 days from the public to investors all willing to get their hands dirty, building and creating.

30 workshops will run throughout the 2 days as we help students develop their ideas and startups build upgrade their own skillsets through specific topics and formats.

Robots to the Rescue will be our Social Hackathon, which we are proud to deploy.

We will be getting Startups to pitch to the public (which will really test their metal)

Talent is a key focus and we have introduced a new DJ talent project to offer UPRISE as a platform for new DJ talent. Music and Startups go hand in hand.

We have stages creating content from startup organisations and projects throughout Europe.

Our attendee ticket price is under €40 and this applies to everyone from corporate to public. Everyone is on the same playing field and we keep focus on startups.

Top tips for startups

Recognise opportunities when they present themselves and grab them.

Participate in your local community since eventually you will need to use it at some point.

Celebrate every success.

Sacrifice perfection for iteration. As a designer this was a hard lesson to learn.

Life work balance – your philosophy?

Work feeds life and life feeds work for me.  Balance is a system of averages on what is more demanding from week to week.


email: [email protected]

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